Move to change school funding formula elicits hope, skepticism

Move to change school funding formula elicits hope, skepticism

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - If you thought public education funding debate ended with the last election, it will likely get cranking again soon. State lawmakers have hired a nonprofit agency to examine the funding formula called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

The state has fully funded public schools under MAEP only twice since it was established in the 1990s. And some say it is antiquated and it's time for a change.

Like many people who have just now heard of the new reexamination of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, Gulfport School Superintendent Glen East is curious, but hopeful it will work.

"That may be a good deal. So everybody can see where we are and where we really need to do to make sure that all the funding in Mississippi is fair and equitable," East said.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is leading the charge to hire the nonprofit EdBuild to a non-bid contract to examine the MAEP, which he calls antiquated. Proponents say an overhaul would mean more money for the classroom rather than administrative expenses. They say it's the best way to put Mississippi Public Education into the 21st Century.

Sen. Sean Tindell, R-District 49, said the MAEP has fundamental flaws.

"You look at all the dollars that go into the administration in these different school districts and it's just not getting into the classroom."

Rep. David Baria, D-District 122, called that simply a talking point.

"So everybody wants more money in the classroom, but you can't do that without buses to get kids to school, without a building and grounds so the kids have a place to go, without teachers to teach them."

He said he has no problem with re-examining existing law. But he's frustrated that MAEP was never given the chance to succeed, and he's frustrated that there may be a hidden agenda.

"I don't understand what they are going after," he said. "I suspect what they are going after is a way to justify their desire to take public funds and move it into private charter schools. But, as I said earlier, we should always be about looking at old programs to determine whether they're still adequate, whether they meet our current needs, whether they're being run efficiently."

Once EdBuild releases its recommendations, there will be public meetings, which will be announced at a later date.

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